I think there is a definite generational factor at work, too. If you were a baby boomer, you did not need to have much ability or talent to have a very high standard of living. I’ve met many Baby Boomers (and older) who have nothing more than a high school education and are barely literate yet have high incomes, pensions, suburban houses, and plenty of disposable income. Most of them played the game well – they stuck at a single job their entire life, because that was what one did in their day. Today, of course, that is not even an option. And, of course, many of them were either union members or government workers. And it is also telling that most of them are now right-wing Republicans, fixated on keeping their taxes low to the exclusion of all other factors that affect society. Needless to say, people of my generation and younger have a much different story – advanced degrees with low pay, high debts, and nonexistent job security, particularly if you started from a lower middle class background.
I think this is a big reason behind why the Tea Party consists of older white Americans wanting to defend their privilege, while the Occupy movement consists of more young people who want to renegotiate the social contract. Now there's hard data to back this up:
U.S. Wealth Gap Between Young and Old Is Widest Ever (Associated Press):
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The wealth gap between younger and older Americans has stretched to the widest on record, worsened by a prolonged economic downturn that has wiped out job opportunities for young adults and saddled them with housing and college debt.
The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday.
While people typically accumulate assets as they age, this gap is now more than double what it was in 2005 and nearly five times the 10-to-1 disparity a quarter-century ago, after adjusting for inflation.
I've often believed that once the Baby Boomers, who grew up in a middle class society where they could prosper with minimal work skills and intelligence, die off, there will be a political realignment. Add to that the fact that many more people in the future will be children of immigrants, especially Hispanic ones, and once again you've got a recipe for political alignment. The Republican Party, which has based its entire strategy by playing on the prejudices of a white, middle class wealthy society, and has made preserving privilege their central focus, will have a hard time selling their message as the country changes. I think the Republicans actually know this, and that's the reason they are trying to subvert the democratic process by redrawing political districts and requiring ID's at the ballot box. In some instances, they've resorted to outright vote fraud (while accusing their opponents of the same). Expect this to continue as the older, privileged generation kicks the bucket, and our younger, poorer generation threatens the status of the elites.